So, I wrote this review a while back, right after The Fault in our Stars was released. Since then I’ve read the book twice more. That probably says something…
Here’s the Goodreads synopsis, where it has an average reader rating of 4.51 stars (!) out of 5.
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
I sat down to read The Fault In Our Stars at three in the afternoon, just getting up to do laundry and eat dinner, and only with hesitation. I finished it at eight-thirty. And oh, what an eight-thirty it was.
There’s a kind of tranquility to be found on the last page of any book. If it’s good, the last line bears a kind of bittersweet resonance — the story is suddenly over; you maybe sit there for a minute to think, then go on with your life, that’s the last word on the subject. I guess The Fault in Our Stars was not so different from this experience. I read the last line, turned to a blank page, and thought, “oh.” I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t realize it had ended. I went back to re-read the last two lines and decided right there and then that despite their ambiguous finality, they were perfect. John Green knows how to use the power of simplicity.
That simplicity isn’t only in the last lines of the book. One of my greatest secret pleasures in a book involves the quietest sentences and smallest words. Forget sweeping story lines or far-off settings; the things which make me silently revel in a story are the tiniest ones. Small snatches of beauty permeate this story as if stolen from some writerly world which only the chosen few can inhabit. John is like a master puppeteer; with the slightest twitch of the wrist he can move the tone to his whim, inserting these pieces of beauty in the most unexpected of places.
The plot behind Augustus and Hazel sounds like your typical cancer-ridden coming of age story, but that’s where the commonplace stops and the extraordinary begins. They’re teenagers who just want to live out normal teenager lives, though it’s established quite early that this just isn’t possible. They handle these sickness-surrounded lives refreshingly, way beyond the typical “Why is this happening to me?” Instead, they learn to accept the sickness to the degree that anyone can accept lungs slowly drowning in liquid, and try to live out the lives they have left in whatever way they can. Augustus especially has a strong voice in this sense; his wonderfully nonchalant attitude, as if cancer is a bug on the bottom of his shoe, fills his character out even though we, the readers, know that can’t be all that goes through his mind as he watches his life and the lives of those surrounding him fall into a resigned chaos.
Most of the characters in TFiOS speak with John Green’s signature voice. Smart, somewhat wordy and often critical of standard society, they make their thoughts known through poetic observations hidden by a screen of teenagedom. They may speak similarly, but the thing is, I really don’t mind. That doesn’t mean they’re without individual character. The wonderful thing about these characters is their acute observations that are so incredibly human. They speak plain truths in a way that molds truth into a kind of worldly grace. That being said, some people take issue with John Green’s characters, saying that they’re too smart for teenagers or they all talk the same, an argument that I can understand. It’s the kind of thing that you have to read for yourself to make your own judgment on.
In case my slightly vague descriptions weren’t clear enough, I’ll put it in simple terms: I freaking love this book. John Green has a very specific writing style, and with some of his books I have a “pick up once and never pick up again” kind of attitude. I can already tell it’s different with The Fault in Our Stars. I can tell you this: this book makes you think without sounding condescending. It speaks in remarkable terms of humor and grief. It pushes you into a world where ordinary people do ordinary things that feel just a little bit like falling in love. And when you reach the last line of the last page, you’ll feel as if you finally understand why it’s not so much the fault in our stars we should pay attention to, but the choices the stars have given us.